Big Oil knows that electric cars and fuel efficient vehicles are the biggest threats to their profits. So major oil and gas industry groups have launched the “Transportation Fairness Alliance” to spread disinformation about electric vehicles and undermine policies that would reduce American drivers’ consumption of gasoline. 

This massive coalition of DC-lobby groups includes the biggest oil and gas industry trade associations—the American Petroleum Institute (API), the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the American Public Gas Association (APGA), the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA). The groups have also hired FTI Consulting, an international strategic communications consultancy to run a PR and communications campaign claiming to be for “fairness” in transportation policy. 

Don’t believe it. Oil companies don’t care about fairness. Oil companies want to make sure American drivers have no choice but to refuel at the gas pump.

Who is behind the Transportation Fairness Alliance?

The coalition’s website includes a who’s who of major oil and gas industry trade associations. It includes upstream producers groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). Midstream refiners are represented by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). The nation’s largest association of gasoline and diesel truckers, the National Tank Truck Carriers, is a member. Downstream fuels marketers, or the familiar gas station brands, are included in the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA)

The American Public Gas Association is a member, protecting the interests of natural gas vehicles (NGVs). Two groups that regularly lobby in support of biofuels are also members—the Agricultural Retailers Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation. 

The coalition is being managed by FTI Consulting, a DC-based international consultancy firm that has a long history of running front groups and PR campaigns for the oil and gas industry. In 2009, the IPAA hired FTI Consulting to launch Energy In Depth, a multimillion-per-year PR campaign to boost unconventional gas development, or hydrofracking. Energy In Depth has, in years since, been deployed to discredit scientists, to defend oil sands production, to advocate for pipeline construction, and to defend the oil industry from allegations that #ExxonKnew, and other oil companies knew, about the threat their product posed to the climate.      

FTI has promoted the Energy In Depth campaign for its “tools and tactics used to manage aboveground risks”—these risks being described as opposition from local communities, public health advocates, and environmental groups to oil and gas development and fracking.

A October 2014 technical paper from FTI outlines EID as an example of a “successful rapid response campaign” (emphasis added):

“Through our experience managing aboveground risks in the United States and around the world, we have learned that no matter what challenge a company, coalition or organization is facing – whether it is opposition to hydraulic fracking, widespread deception about oil sands and pipelines, or lack of awareness on LNG exports – all risks can be managed and eventually neutralized if addressed early on and with the right set of tools and tactics,” the paper, which FTI presented at a 2014 Oil & Gas Expo and Conference, concludes.

FTI also discussed how it employs “rapid response” to criticism of the oil and gas industry by amplifying its message through “allies.”

EID is constantly and proactively setting the record straight by engaging and educating the public and consistently holding the opposition accountable. It has installed a system that lets allies be identified and their activities intensified and maximized on a daily basis. It has raised a group of local supporters and been successful in mobilizing the community to advance all the objectives of the industry, no matter if local, national or international.” (Emphasis added.)

Through the Transportation Fairness Alliance, FTI Consulting will be deploying these rapid response and communications strategies to influence public opinion and public policy. 

Fairness and Facts About Electric Vehicles

The Transportation Fairness Alliance’s priorities, as revealed on their website, include a number of general policy arguments that reflect some of the most common—and commonly debunked—myths about electric vehicles and transportation electrification. Here are the real facts.

Fact:

Electric vehicle drivers contribute to road construction and maintenance costs, and in many states pay more than drivers of gas-powered vehicles.

Myth:

EV drivers don’t pay their fair share for road maintenance because they don’t pay a gas tax.

Explanation:

Gas taxes help fund transportation infrastructure, but in most states gas taxes are a small portion of the revenue collected to build and maintain roads. As a 2019 Consumer Reports analysis revealed, “state gas taxes accounted for less than 29 percent of state revenues that went to highway funding.” The authors continue, “Other large sources of funding of road maintenance and construction included registration fees, tolls, and many other sources of tax revenue earmarked for highway funding, most of which are also paid by EV drivers. In addition, in most states, EV drivers are already paying a variety of taxes on the additional electricity they use.” 

In states where EV registration fees have already been implemented or proposed, Consumer Reports found that EV drivers could pay up to three times more in registration fees than the average car would pay annually in a gas tax. By examining current and approved state laws, the report’s authors found that by 2025, 26 states will have these “punitive” EV fees on the books.  

For more about how EV registration fees can be unfairly punitive, see the full Consumer Reports analysis.

Fact:

Over the full life cycle of the vehicle, electric cars are cleaner, no matter how they are charged.

Myth:

Electric cars shift pollution from the tailpipe to the power plant, and producing EVs is worse for the climate than producing gas-powered cars.

Explanation:

When looking at the full life cycle of the vehicle, electric cars are cleaner and greener than their conventional gasoline-burning counterparts. While true that building an electric car produces more emissions than a conventional car, mostly because of battery production, these emissions are dwarfed by those saved over the driving life of the EV. In fact, they are offset in most cases in the first year of driving by emissions reductions from normal operation and use of the vehicle.

For proof, look to the Union of Concerned Scientists’s life cycle analysis: “the average EV in the U.S. produces less global warming emissions than the average gasoline vehicle. The peer-reviewed literature largely agrees: EVs produce more pollution than gas vehicles in the production of the vehicle, but then save emissions while driving which results in a net savings within the first couple years of driving.” The UCS analysis holds true even in the dirtiest, most coal-dependent electric grids. 

Conclusive research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and a 2018 well-to-wheel analysis by Wood Mackenzie further confirmed the UCS research. Learn more about the full life cycle emissions of EVs and how EVs are cleaner wherever they are charged.

Fact:

The electric car tax credit is available to, and benefits, drivers of all income levels.

Myth:

Electric vehicle (EV) incentives only benefit the rich.

Explanation:

The federal electric car tax credit (or EV tax credit) can be used by buyers or electric cars, or alternatively, can be used by the car dealer to lower the base price for a lease. This effectively lowers monthly lease payments into ranges that are comparable—or even lower than—comparable gas-powered vehicles.

The Transportation Fairness Alliance repeats the the myth that “80% of EV tax credits go to the top income bracket,” a deceptive claim that entirely ignores leased vehicles, which make up more than half of all electric cars on the road. Learn more about this myth here.  

Fact:

Electric vehicles are driving down electricity rates for all utility customers.

Myth:

Ratepayers are subsidizing electric vehicle drivers.

Explanation:

Electric vehicle drivers are putting downward pressure on electricity rates for all utility customers. A recent study by Synapse Economics confirmed that electric cars charging is not being subsidized by other customers, but that EV drivers contribute more in revenue to the utility than they create in new infrastructure costs. In the majority of states that have “revenue decoupling” for utilities, that extra revenue is returned to all customers through lower rates. 

Other recent studies have shown how even utility-funded programs for EV charging infrastructure provide more in benefits to the average ratepayer than the costs. A 2017 study by M.J. Bradley, for instance, revealed $265 in annual benefits for each electric vehicle charging on the New York grid: $18 for the vehicle owner, $166 for the average utility customer, and another $81 for society in reduced emissions.

 

Fairness = Equity

There are a number of groups —ones that don’t profit from the unconstrained gasoline sales—that work on fairness and equity in transportation policy. Rather than take the oil industry’s PR consultants at their word, you can learn about truly equitable and fair transportation policy from any of the 100+ organizations that form the Transportation Equity Caucus.

This diverse coalition— formed by the nation’s leading civil rights, community development, disability, racial justice, economic justice, faith-based, health, housing, labor, environmental justice, tribal, public interest, women’s groups and transportation organizations—is, in their words “focused on driving transportation policies that advance economic and social equity in America.”

Learn more about the Transportation Equity Caucus’s partner orgs and about true fairness in transportation policy.

This website is a project of DeSmog. It contains facts, analysis, and commentary regarding the fossil fuel industry-backed group Transportation Fairness Alliance. This website is not associated in any way with Transportation Fairness Alliance.